Tapes reveal Bliss told players to lie about Dennehy

Updated: August 16, 2003, 9:43 PM ET

WACO, Texas -- Former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss tried to cover up alleged NCAA violations by telling assistant coaches and players to lie and say a slain player had been dealing drugs to pay for school, secretly recorded audiotapes reveal.

The recordings were made by an assistant coach who turned them over to Baylor and NCAA investigators on Friday. Copies of the tapes were obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"The tapes reveal a desperate man trying to figure out how to cover himself and to cover up" NCAA violations, said Kirk Watson, counsel for Baylor's in-house investigations committee.

Bliss talked to two or three players about the scheme, although only one took the phony story to investigators and he has since recanted. Watson would not identify the player.

Neither Bliss nor any of his assistant coaches actually used the fake story with investigators, Watson said.

The review committee found no evidence Patrick Dennehy was involved in drug dealing.

Watson said the tapes would be turned over to prosecutors to determine whether a crime had been committed.

Neither Bliss nor assistant coach Abar Rouse, who made the tapes, could be reached for comment Saturday. An AP reporter went to Bliss's home, where no one answered the door and the blinds were drawn. Attempts to reach Baylor players and other assistant coaches Saturday were unsuccessful.

Bliss, however, acknowledged the cover-up to the Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News in Saturday's editions.

"The bizarre circumstances painted me into a corner and I chose the wrong way to react," he said. "I have cooperated completely and will continue to do so because I have disappointed a lot of people."

Bliss was among 10 Baylor officials to attend Dennehy's memorial service on Aug. 7, the day before he resigned as coach.

"I keep going back to him shaking my hand and me thanking him for coming," Dennehy's stepfather, Brian Brabazon, said in a telephone interview Saturday after learning of the tapes. "Had I had even an inkling of this, I would have grabbed his hand and his throat and thrown him against the wall and beat him."

In a statement Friday night, Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. said he felt betrayed by Bliss' attempt "to suppress and conceal the truth."

Earlier this month, Sloan said an internal review found that two players had received improper tuition payments and that Bliss had admitted involvement. The tapes reveal an attempt to divert investigators away from those improper payments.

"I think the thing we want to do -- and you think about this -- if there's a way we can create the perception that Pat may have been a dealer," Bliss is heard saying on one tape. "Even if we had to kind of make some things look a little better than they are, that can save us."

Rouse, who joined Baylor on June 1, said he made the secret recordings after Bliss told him he would lose his job if he didn't help carry out the deception.

Bill Underwood, a member of the Baylor internal committee, told the Morning News that the panel also found that Bliss wrote scripts for players and coaches to review before talking with authorities. The scripts included fabrications alluding to drug use by Dennehy.

Bliss said on the tapes that Dennehy couldn't deny the allegations because he was dead.

"When he said Patrick couldn't refute that, he forgot something: Patrick's other half -- me," Dennehy's girlfriend, Jessica De La Rosa, said Saturday. "I'm still here and I will speak for him. I will defend him with everything that I have."

In one conversation, Bliss indicated another player, Harvey Thomas, would be willing to lie about Dennehy's activities because Baylor coaches had publicly denied knowledge of threats Thomas allegedly made to Dennehy before Dennehy's disappearance.

"Harvey will do anything," Bliss told Rouse. "And the reason is because we did it for Harvey."

Thomas has denied making threats or any involvement in Dennehy's death. A former teammate, Carlton Dotson, has been charged with Dennehy's murder.

Dennehy, whose body was found in a field outside Waco on July 25, died from two gunshot wounds to the head. An autopsy found no alcohol, opiates, amphetamines or barbiturates in his system, but his body was too decomposed to test for marijuana.

Dotson told FBI agents that he shot Dennehy after the player tried to shoot him, according to the arrest warrant affidavit. But after his arrest, Dotson told The Associated Press that he "didn't confess to anything."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index